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It's been Quite A Week over here in Wales. It started with a beautiful, sunny UK Mother's Day last Sunday, which was wonderful, but then both of my kids caught a stomach bug over the last few days, so...yeah. I'll leave the gruesome details from this latter half of the week to your imagination! ;)

On the upside, though, I still managed to get through my first big revision of my adult romantic fantasy novella Snowspelled this week, powered by rich, dark hot chocolates. Huzzah! I sent the new draft off to critique partners late this morning, and since I'm not expecting edits for my next MG novel until Sunday or Monday, I am - for the first time in a looooong time - temporarily deadline-free!

Needless to say, I immediately started trying to think of a new short story to write before my edits arrive. I don't do very well without an ongoing writing project to keep me busy. ;)

And speaking of short stories, my Kat prequel story (about her parents when they were young), "Forbidden Magic," will be published as a 99-cent ebook in just 5 days, on April 5th. You can find a full description, a brief excerpt, and the pre-order links here.

I originally wrote that story on commission earlier this year, for a charity auction winner who requested a story about Kat's parents. It's so much fun to write those tie-in stories! I love doing it. Of course I'm already contemplating my first tie-in stories for The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart. So far, though, my ideas have all been for stories following that first book, so I'll have to wait until the book is safely out in America (on May 30th! less than 2 months away!) before I start writing (or at least sharing) them.
Still, if you've read the book and have any particular characters you'd love to read about in a tie-in story, do let me know, and I'll make sure to keep them in mind!

And if you're interested in talking more about writing with me, I'm going to be running two different writing workshops over the next month.

On Friday, April 21st, I'll be running a science fiction and fantasy writing workshop for adults and teens, as part of the Abergavenny Writing Festival. You can find more details and book your ticket here.

And on Wednesday, April 19th, from 2:30-3:30, I'll be running a dragon-themed writing workshop for kids at the Abergavenny Library. (No tickets necessary!) My 8-year-old is VERY excited about that one. :)

I'd love to see any of you guys at either of those workshops! Do let me know if you'll be coming.

Hope you all have a good weekend!
I think my favorite discovery of my adult life has been butterfly houses. Back when Patrick and I lived in Vienna for 6 months in 2002, we had VERY little money, but we loved visiting the Imperial Butterfly House at the Hofburg Palace - we went there for my 25th birthday and again any time we could justify it, because it was so lovely to walk around the palm trees with butterflies flitting all around us. Last year, we learned that there's a butterfly house not too far away from our home in Wales, so we went there for my 39th birthday, too, and we went back again this past weekend.

Sadly, I have no pictures to share (because all of mine include very happy little boys whose online privacy I'm trying to respect). But it was a VERY happy moment in our family's weekend. :)

What I do have, of course, is dozens and dozens of pictures of Pebbles, because I can't resist taking adoring photos of her every day. The M.E./CFS means I have to spend quite a bit of time every day lying down - but who minds lying down when they have such a sweet cat purring on their chest? And PhotoBooth makes it irresistibly tempting to take photos of her every day as she does it. I am restraining myself with a HUGE EFFORT from posting all of them here (because I know not EVERYBODY is in love with our new cat and really wants to pore through dozens of them)! But here is one picture of her sleeping:



Just one cat-photo per blog entry isn't too over-the-top...is it? (Maybe don't answer that question!)

And it's been a busy week of writing. I finished up the first three chapters of my new MG project (tentatively titled A Grumpy Princess's Guide to Ice Giants & Other Catastrophes) and sent them to my agent, who liked them, hurrah! Whether or not it will be my next contracted book (to be published in 2019) will depend partly on sales for The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart (since they're set in the same fantasy world), so...in other words, now would be a lovely time to buy (or pre-order) The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart if you haven't already! Because I would loooooove to be able to write the rest of my grumpy princess's guide. It's so much fun!

Next week I'll be diving into edits for my spies-and-fairies MG book (to be published by Bloomsbury in 2018 - I just saw a first cover sketch for the US edition!), which I'm really looking forward to...and in the meantime, I've been working on my first revisions to my adult romantic-fantasy novella, Snowspelled, which should come out later this year.

So I've been busy with lots of different fun projects! And it's been great to have a Pebbles-cat cuddled up against me as I work.

But I WILL NOT break down and post another photo of her now. Must...resist...temptation...must! ;)

(Ending this entry NOW before I lose control and post ALL OF THEM!)

Talking About Dragons

I had really big news last week: I got my first-ever starred review, and it came from Kirkus Reviews, for The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart! Woooot! I am so happy about this. Kirkus called it "A gloriously fresh story to be read with a steaming cup of chocolate at hand" - and you can read the full review here.

There was a LOT of happy-dancing in our household after that was announced! :)

And speaking of dragons, I had a great time guesting on one of my favorite podcasts, Bellwether Friends, which is run by a pair of fabulous librarians who've been Twitter-friends of mine for years. I've been listening to the podcast for years, so it was a total thrill to be invited to guest on it, and I loved getting to finally hang out with Anna and Alene in...well, not quite in person, but at least via Skype! Basically, since it was me and two librarians mutually geeking out about dragons, the whole podcast is filled with recommendations for lots and lots of dragon-related books and movies in multiple genres and for all age groups (ranging from picturebooks to adult paranormal romance). So: I hope you'll have your library card ready when you listen! :) The episode went up today, and you can listen to it here or download it through iTunes.

(I should note in my own self-defense that we recorded this just a few days after my trip to England, when I was in the middle of a massive post-trip M.E. crash, so if I'm occasionally a little inarticulate, please put it down to my exhaustion! But I had so much fun anyway.)

Let me know if there are any books/movies we should have mentioned but forget! I always love adding to my list. :)

And speaking of reading lists...are you a book-blogger, librarian, bookseller or reviewer in the US or Canada? If so, check it out: the e-ARC of The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart (North American edition) is up on Netgalley now! Hurrah!



Of course, if you're in the UK or Australia, you can buy the published book now, and if you're in North America you can pre-order it as a hardcover or an ebook - less than 3 months left before its May 30th pub date, huzzah! And it recently sold Polish and Romanian rights as well as French and German, so I hope to be announcing more international publication dates soon.

Finally, I have one shockingly NON-dragon-related rec to make: Lin-Manuel Miranda curated this salsa playlist on Spotify (any Parks & Rec fans will recognize the reference in its name!), and I've been listening to it nearly nonstop for the past few days. Perfect music for getting moving...even if only one some writing work! ;)

Charging Up with Joy

Every time I do an event for kids, I'm reminded of why I want to keep writing kids' books forever. Last Wednesday, I got on the train to Oswestry, a lovely town just across the border into England, where I got to hang out in my hotel with fab authors Sibéal Pounder and Andy Griffiths, along with our wonderful publicists (Lizz from Bloomsbury for me and Sibéal; Catherine from MacMillan for Andy) and Carrie and Tim, the owners of Booka Bookshop, who had organised an amazing World Book Day Event for Thursday.

Thursday morning, Sibéal, Andy and I talked to 500 students from the local schools about World Book Day and of course our books. Sibéal - with the kids' enthusiastic direction! - dressed two teachers up as fabulous witches. I found out about some of the secret creatures hidden behind the kids' own exteriors (just like my ferocious heroine Aventurine is secretly a dragon inside her harmless-looking human form). Andy had the kids literally screaming with laughter as he showed them through the treehouses of his books and played a balloon symphony for them.



Afterwards, as we signed our books, I got to talk individually to so many interesting, creative kids - who ranged from secret dragons to wizards, warriors, and even bats. It was so much fun...and it left me absolutely buzzing with inspiration. As I took the train home that afternoon, I felt charged full of happiness and wonder that I get to do this amazing job and connect with such enthusiastic, generous kid-readers.

Of course, the M.E./CFS always demands a physical payback after I make any big trip, so I spent the next few days resting instead of writing...but today I finished the new Chapter Two of my MG work-in-progress (veeeery tentatively titled A Grumpy Princess's Guide to Ice Giants and Other Catastrophes), and I'm hoping to finish Chapter Three by the end of this week. I've also been in touch with a fabulous artist who may be doing cover art for my upcoming adult novella, Snowspelled, later this year. I can't wait to share more details as I figure them out!

And if you're a longtime reader and have ever wondered what my first heroine's parents were like when they were young...I'm sending out my next newsletter on Wednesday with a brand-new short story all about Kat's parents. If you'd like to read it, just sign up here!

Now it's time for me to dive back into my new novel before the kids get home from school, but I can't close out without talking about two things I've really loved over this past week.



I read Renée Watson's Piecing Me Together on the train rides back and forth from Oswestry, and oh, I devoured it! It's so gorgeously written, so intensely compelling, and so uplifting. It's one of my very favorite books I've read in a long time, and you can read my full Goodreads review here.

And - although I know I'm very late to the party here! - my kids and I watched My Neighbor Totoro yesterday and looooooooooved it. There was one point halfway through when I realized I'd just been grinning steadily for ages, and I kept on helplessly beaming at the screen for the rest of the film. It was so joyful and full of such a sense of wonder and love. If you haven't seen it yet (is there anyone else who hasn't seen it by now?): do it! You won't regret it. :)

What about you guys? What's one thing (book/movie/life event/whatever!) that's made you happy lately? I would really love to hear about it!
Whew. Over the last two weeks, every single person in our house (including visiting relatives!) has been knocked down one by one, like dominoes, by a nasty feverish cold. I was the last one, and I'm finally getting to the end of it now (albeit with a veeery croaky voice - I REALLY hope that's all better by the time I talk to 500 students in Oswestry next week!) - but oof, I am tired.

And in a good news/bad news day of writing, I realized today that I have to back up, delete Chapter Two of my new MG novel-in-progress (VERY tentatively titled A Grumpy Princess's Guide to Ice Giants and Other Catastrophes), and rewrite it in a different direction. It's a better direction! This is definitely a good move for the book!

But, but, but...well, the honest truth is, since my writing time has been SO hard-won over the last few tired weeks of half-term holiday and child-illnesses, I am of course totally weeping for those wasted days of work. (Those 3,000 words I'm cutting were HARD WORDS TO WRITE!) Ah well! Maybe I had to write my way through that first version to get to this better version. Maybe? I'm certainly going to tell myself that, anyway, to feel better.

And there has been some really wonderful news coming in for The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart! My 8-year-old subscribes to The Phoenix Comic, and his little brother loves it too, so we were sitting down for our weekly family read of it last week...when we found THIS!



It was the most amazing thing to discover as a family! It's now been selected as Book of the Week (in different weeks) not only by The Phoenix Comic but also in the UK magazine The Week Junior, the South Wales Evening Post (see their review here), and Books for Keeps (see their interview with me here), as well as being one of the Picks of the Month at LoveReading4Kids (where the kid-reader reviews made me melt).

Then, just a few days ago, Ana at The Book Smugglers gave it a really wonderful review, calling it "a delightful, funny, heart-warming romp" and saying "I am more than happy to recommend this delicious, charming book to both kids and adults."

Yay!

After so much good news, I really want to give something back. So I spent the other day putting some of my chocolate-research to good use. (Yum!)

Of course everyone who reads this blog knows that I'm obsessed with dragons AND chocolate...so for everyone who reads The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart and wants to know more about the chocolate itself, check out my new More About the Chocolate page! It includes happy geekery about historical chocolate-making (I had SO much fun researching this book!), links to drool over, and also a delicious downloadable modern recipe-pack from Bloomsbury.

And there's more!

If you're a knitter, just sign up to Ravelry (if you're not a member already!) to see this gorgeous pattern (designed by Jenn Reese) for a Dragon with a Chocolate Heart hat! I love mine so, so, so much. (Dragons + mugs of hot chocolate & hearts! It is the PERFECT hat for my book - and I've been wearing mine almost every day!)



And since I feel really bad that my North American readers still have to wait three more months for this book...here's a flash giveaway just for you guys!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The two ways to enter (you can do both!) are by signing up for my author newsletter or adding Dragon to your Goodreads TBR, if you have a Goodreads account. Just click "done!" on each entry in the Rafflecopter box once you've done it. And good luck!

Wishing everyone a very chocolate-y weekend. :)

Amazing News and a Thank-You Gift

This week started with amazing news: The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart is already going into a second printing, less than a week after its UK publication!

You guys are wonderful.

Thank you SO MUCH to everyone who's already bought this book, reviewed this book, checked it out from a library or spread the word about it. I appreciate you all SO MUCH! (And please do keep writing reviews on Amazon and elsewhere - they help so much!)

So I've been trying to figure out a good way to say thank you...and here it is.

For anyone who's bought my book since it came out, who's pre-ordered it or added it to their Goodreads TBR list, who's written a blog entry about looking forward to it or reviewed it on Amazon or elsewhere:

There's one particular set of lines in my book that my acquiring editor at Bloomsbury quoted when she explained why she wanted to publish it in the first place. They're lines that apply to an awful lot of us - even the ones who haven't started out with real, visible dragon scales.

And Jenn Reese turned them into a sticker design for me! (Just click on the image to see it full-size.)



So: No matter where you live, if you'd like a sticker (or 2 stickers, one to keep and one to give away!), just email me at steph @ stephanieburgis . com (deleting the spaces in-between the words) with your postal address. There's no immediate limit to this offer - I'll send them to any individual who emails me and asks, until I finally run out of them! :)

And for some more good news: I just got the official confirmation that Dragon is going to be published in France, too! It sold in a two-book deal (with its sequel, my spies-and-fairies book, coming next!) to Gallimard Jeunesse. Hurrah! My fierce dragon-girl heroine will be roaring in three languages. :) (It's being published in Germany in August!) I don't have a publication date for the French edition yet, but I'll add that to the webpage as soon as I find it out.

Happy Valentine's Day, everyone!

Dragon Unleashed!

Hooray! The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart is out TODAY in the U.K.

(But whoops, that all got a lot more rhyme-y than I'd intended. Sorry! I'm a little bit giddy right now, as you can probably tell. But the book itself doesn't rhyme, I promise! ;) It's not that sort of book at all, as you can tell if you read the first chapter.)

It all started late one night, about 2 years and 4 months ago. I'd finally, finally gotten my younger son (still a baby) to sleep, so I'd turned off the light and was just starting to fall asleep myself (and oh, I DESPERATELY needed that sleep, by then!)...when suddenly an opening and a heroine flashed simultaneously into my mind.

A delicious opening.

A wonderful, fierce dragon-girl.

A passion for chocolate.

Ohhh!

I couldn't wait. For the first time in months, I didn't even care about sleep!

I jerked upright, opened up my laptop, and with the light from the screen casting an eerie glow through the darkened bedroom, I started to type.

Once I'd finished writing down the first scene, I went to bed smiling, with all the different characters playing through my head all night long.

I am so happy that I finally get to share them with you guys!



The Bookseller calls it an "irresistible fantasy adventure"; School Library Journal calls it "a delicious fantasy treat that will satisfy readers who hunger for feel-good tales that pack a girl-power punch, like Gail Carson Levine’s Ella Enchanted or the movie Moana"; and in a lovely, serendipitous book-birthday gift, the UK's Reading Agency has just selected it (in an announcement made today!) for this year's Summer Reading Challenge (a program my own kids take part in every year through their local library - so I am REALLY excited to see my book on this list)!

You can find The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart (or request it) at any physical bookshop in the UK, and you can order it from any online bookseller. I'm afraid there's a little longer still to wait for Australians (who will get it on March 1st) and North Americans (who will get it on May 30th)...

...But if you do read it now, will you please let me know what you think? I have been waiting SO LONG to talk about it with you guys! I want to know who your favorite characters are! And what your draconic passion would be! (Trust me, that question will make far more sense once you've read the book. I promise!)

And if you're able to take the time to write even just a very short review on Amazon or elsewhere, I will be so very grateful. ALL reviews, good and bad, make such a huge difference to a book's success!

And I ALWAYS love seeing pictures of the book out in the wild. :)

Sadly, my poor 8-year-old is home ill today, so I can't go out to celebrate the official book birthday. But I can't wait for the launch party on Saturday - I'd love to see any of you guys there! And today, I'm having a yummy at-home party courtesy of my agent, as you can see. Mmmmm! The perfect way to celebrate this chocolate-filled book.



Thank you guys so much for celebrating with me. Chocolate to everybody!
You guys know I love historical fantasy - so today I'm hosting author E.C. Ambrose, whose latest medieval fantasy novel, Elisha Mancer, was published by DAW Books today!

Here she is:



One facet of my work which I am proud to share with Stephanie is the incorporation of magic with history — in particular, a historically appropriate conception of magic for the period.

Researching historical magic is a tricky process. The would-be researcher will first encounter all kinds of works on contemporary witchcraft or magic, and sleight-of-hand—all of which are interesting, but not very useful. There is, however, an academic line of inquiry into the history of human beliefs about magic, including the archaeology of magical charms and texts, and the study of magical texts, and the biographies of historical magic practitioners.

For my era, I was thrilled to discover Societas Magica, the academic society for the study of magic during the Middle Ages. These scholars study manuscripts of magical knowledge or understanding which are frequently bound together codex-style, either with other magical texts, or simply collections of household knowledge, of which magic was only a part. They have overseen a series of volumes from the University of Pennsylvania press covering a wide variety of magical studies and practices, including ritual magic, divination, and conjuring spirits.

While most people today would not profess a belief in magic (in spite of reading horoscopes, having lucky shoes or washing their cars to make it rain), during the 14th century, and for much of human history, a healthy respect for magic was common, even among people who did not claim to have witnessed it themselves. While the official Church stance on magic was that it didn't exist, the reality suggests that priests frequently confronted the genuine belief of their parishoners. Manifestations of apparently magical power could be taken as demonic possession or the influence of Satan, but it's not until the 15th century that the idea of a witch hunt becomes truly significant.
Interestingly, people often defended themselves against magical attack through recourse to spells or charms. These might be written down and worn on the body. Both magical charms and learned ritual magic gathered in books tend to include numerous Biblical references and the names of saints, implicating the religion of the time in magical beliefs. One of the most beautiful translations of this type of magic into a historical fantasy setting is R. A. MacAvoy's Damiano's Lute series, which I heartily recommend.

However, medieval research was important to me in more ways than one. I spent a lot of time (and money) researching medieval surgery, and I did not want the introduction of magic to simply wash away the reality of medical practice. One of the things that often bothers me about the use of magic in fantasy novels is its tendency to become a panacea, solving all the problems that people face without much effort or cost. The healer simply evokes healing magic and the injury (and all of its physical and emotional ramifications) evaporate.

If I may pick on J. K. Rowling for a moment, (I think she's big enough to take it), the example I usually point to is the botched healing of Harry's arm after it is broken during a quidditch match. Professor Lockheart inadvertently removes Harry's bone instead of healing it. Harry is then sent to the infirmary where a potion allows him to re-grow the bone. It hurts a bit, but he's back to normal, virtually overnight. There are huge anatomical implications to the loss of an entire bone, not to mention the subsequent replacement of that bone (joints, veins, nerves, ligaments and muscles—an entire eco-system relies on the presence of the bone).

Medieval understandings of magic were based on a few key principles, one of which was knowledge of the thing the pracitioner wishes to effect. When my protagonist, Elisha, a trained barber-surgeon, begins to discover his own magical potential, it is his medical knowledge that makes it effective. A magus without medical skill would not be able to do the things Elisha can, and sometimes, even the dual skills in magic and medicine are not enough to save the patient or solve the problem.



Finding the balance between history, magic, and medicine has been one of my challenges and delights in writing these books. Elisha Mancer, book four in my Dark Apostle series of fantasy novels about medieval surgery, lanches this month! For sample chapters, historical research and some nifty extras, like a scroll-over image describing the medical tools on the cover of Elisha Barber, visit www.TheDarkApostle.com/books

E. C. Ambrose blogs about the intersections between fantasy and history at ecambrose.wordpress.com, and you can find her on Twitter and Facebook.

Find Volume One, Elisha Barber, on Indiebound,
Barnes & Noble, and Amazon.

Find Volume Four, Elisha Mancer (published today!), on IndieBound, Barnes & Noble, and Amazon.

Cats and Dragons

It's been a tough couple of weeks, between my horror at so much of the recent political news (in both the US and the UK) and my personal grief over losing our sweet old dog, Maya. We will never, ever forget her.

But there are some really wonderful things happening this week for our family...and one of the most important ones happened this weekend. Meet Pebbles!



Pebbles is about two years old, and we found her through Usk New Start Cat Rescue. She has an amazing purr, she loooooves being petted - and our whole family feels very lucky to have found her.

She was nervous at first but has gotten more and more relaxed and comfortable every day. Unfortunately, tonight will be her first trip with us to the vets, for a vaccination and also treatment for a minor eye infection - I hope it won't be too much of a shock/betrayal for her! Please cross your fingers for us - and if any of you are cat-owners, I'd love to hear about your favorite cat toys (or see pictures of your pets)! While we were waiting to collect her, I asked friends on Facebook (in a public post, visible to everybody) to share cat pictures and cat stories, and it turned into a really lovely thread - definitely worth checking out if you could do with some adorable cat pictures right now!</a>

Meanwhile, my wonderful local Waterstones is gearing up for my upcoming launch party in the most amazing ways!




Abergavenny Kids just posted an interview with me about both the book and the launch party - which is only five days away now! I hope to see some of you guys there.

The official UK publication date is February 9th (this Thursday!), but it's already in stock at lots of Waterstones and Foyles branches and online bookstores - and I would love to know whether it's in stock yet at independent bookstores too! If anyone glimpses it on a shelf in any shop or library, please let me know - or better yet, take a photo and send it to me! I would LOVE to see those pictures.

I'm sorry that North American and Australian readers have longer to wait! It's coming out in Australia on March 1st and in North America on May 30th. But no matter where you live, you can read Chapter One online now!

I finished the first draft of my first adult romantic fantasy novella (Snowspelled) last Friday, so now I'm working on my new short-short story about Kat's mother (on commission for the winner of my last charity auction item!), and then I'll leap back into my next MG novel, which is all about grumpy princesses, goblin girls, and really annoying older sisters who think they rule the world (because they do).

...or at least, I will if I can convince Pebbles that she should let me use my hands for writing instead of typing. (You wouldn't believe how long it's taken me just to type this blog entry! Silly kitty...but very, very soft kitties with loud purrs can be very persuasive about things like this, as I've discovered in the last few days.)



Happy Monday!

All of Our Families

I am so horrified by the news, it's hard to be coherent or articulate.

But here is a family story I grew up on:

When my great-grandfather was a little boy, and his mother was still too weak to get up off the couch after having had a new baby, their house was burned down by Cossacks, and my great-great-grandmother's wedding ring was yanked off her finger and stolen.

...Because they were Jewish.

They were middle-class. They spoke Russian, like their neighbors. They thought nothing like that could happen to them. But they were wrong.

They spent the next 3 years trying to find a way to flee the country. My great-grandfather had to leave his family behind for those three years and be hidden among a family of Christian friends who pretended he was theirs, for his own safety.

Three years later, the family finally managed to reunite and escape the country, taking great risks along the way.
Finally they came to America, where they were safe.

Over and over again, in all of my family stories, from all the different branches and religions, my ancestors came to America and were safe.

President Trump's Executive Order just denied that option to refugees of all ages in desperate need, as well as immigrants from multiple predominantly-Muslim countries.

I'm thinking of all those families, like my own family, seeking safety to live and work and thrive...and being turned away based on an Islamophobic prejudice that is every bit as bitter, as hateful and as dangerous as the anti-Semitism that targeted my family.

...as well as all those green-card and visa holders who happened to be traveling outside the country when the ban was enacted and who may now be turned away when their return flights land in American airports, not allowed back in to join the rest of their families in their new home in America. (Updated: they are already being turned away.)

America is a country of immigrants.

America was founded with the core concept of religious freedom.

My heart is breaking for so many families today.

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